Saturday, November 25, 2006
Walking back to our hotel, we have just entered a park on the southern bank of the Golden Horn when a slim, wiry fellow overtakes us. About 5 yards ahead he appears to drop a brush.
"Excuse me! Excuse me! You've dropped something" ... how very English.
The guy turns around, asks where we come from ('ah, you are Ingleesh?') and - as he is a shoe-shine guy - invites me to the edge of the path, beckoning me to have my shoes done. I'm confused, is he offering a free shoe-shine in gratitude? Hesitating, I am lost and off we go.
Another guy, who he introduces as his 'brother', joins us and sets up stall a few feet away: Clare is beckoned across to have her sandals done.
My shoe-shiner doesn't have much English, but he is very insistent about the children he has to support - I am given the impression that he has to do this rather menial work so that his children can go on to better things. Which of us has not had similar thoughts about his children?
Actually, he does a rather good job on my ancient walking shoes. We now get to payment time. Still thinking I was getting a favour, I was prepared to give him 5 Lira (about £2) 'for his children'. But now he suddenly becomes a very unhappy bunny. 'Change!' 'Change!' he shouts. We have got used to this cry in Istanbul, indicating the amount is far too small.
"How much?" I asked, in continuing confusion. 'Twenty five Lira' comes back (£10).
Excuse me? At last the worm turns. "Too much!" I exclaim firmly. In the end I was prepared to give him four Lira for myself and four for Clare (around £3.20 in toto)and we just walked away. I guess I was overcharged by a factor of 5-10.
As we walked away, with a bad taste in our mouths, I said to Clare "I bet he dropped that brush deliberately, just to get us into conversation."
"No" she said, "he wouldn't risk the tools of his trade like that."
Back at the hotel we recounted our experience over dinner. It turned out that two other couples had had exactly the same experience that day.
We were pleased to see the usual sights: the AyaSofya Museum (Justinian's great 6th century Byzantine cathedral) and the Blue Mosque (pictured) as well as the great vaulted underground water reservoirs built by roman engineering.
Still, we were informed that the country has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I was underwhelmed with Chicken Shack. An anonymous bassist, drummer and rhythm guitarist overshadowed by the ego of Stan Webb, who presents as an alpha-male working-class rough diamond. Repartee with the audience and a vaudeville feel. This is a band without sparkle doing a workmanlike performance they have done a thousand times before.
The Bluesbreakers were a league above, in terms of crispness, talent and impact. John Mayall came across as a thoroughly nice, somewhat unassuming guy (but so old!) and made a fuss of the band members, especially his new protege Buddy Whittington (click here) who follows in his celebrated line of guitar-heroes (Eric Clapton notably).
Mayall is impressive on keyboard and harmonica and can still sing. Whittington has tight, incisive guitar which sounds a little Claptonesque, although without his inspiration.
Even so, I found my attention wandering some of the time. The Blues is quite a restrictive format, and it's hard not to fall into the rut of overlong improvisations on a predictable bass line.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Wilson would have loved a recent example of his thinking. On the BBC nature programme 'Planet Earth' the film crew 'broke the rules' on non-intervention to save the life of an Emperor penguin chick which had become trapped in an ice-hole. Viewers were invited to comment on the ethics of this - of course, overwhelmingly they were in favour. Who could not want to save this cuddly chick? (See picture)
So why the reaction? Do we love all animals so unreservedly? Or do those chicks look awfully like ... human babies?
Suppose the camera crew had been filming a nest of enormous black, slimy, blood-sucking leeches slithering around, and one had come a little too close and fallen into a hole. My vote would have been with the guy with the petrol can and matches!
Public WiFi networks depends on Radio Access Points, (RAPs), similar to a home wireless broadband router, installed on lamp posts. This is how we put them up (not me! I took the photo ...).
And this is what they look like when they are up.
The Radio Access Point is larger than a home wireless router because it's housed in a weatherproof container. These are US devices and are hardened against hurricanes and shotgun blasts. Obviously not necessary in Newcastle!
On the current plan, at this stage not a single operational device has been installed, so from a project point of view, this is all work which has to be done over the next few months.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Here's a shot of Adrian and Clare basking in the heat, just before the fireworks display started.
My camera phone wasn't much use for the fireworks themselves, so you have to imagine those.
Talking of the camera phone, my 4 GB memory card finally arrived and I now have more music on it than you could shake a stick at. Shame I can't use it on planes ...